A Note To Every Basketball Player On Earth

As I’m still composing my “I’m sorry for doubting you Cleveland” article, I came across the most accurately written discussion piece about pick-up basketball that I’ve seen since I read the “White Men Can’t Jump” script.  PLEASE read this article:

How To Play Pickup Basketball Without Being A Pain In The Ass

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

For most of my adult life, I have managed to play basketball two or three times a week. I do this because it is significantly more fun than, say, spending a joyless half-hour on a worn treadmill in some windowless YMCA basement, and at 29, my knee still has yet to explode like poor Shaun Livingston’s. But like every Millennial with an overpriced graduate degree, I have also moved around plenty, logging stints in five major cities (or four, depending on how you feel about Boston) over the past ten years. This means that I am very familiar with the feeling of showing up to a court full of total strangers, high tops in hand, and hoping for the best.

Joining an informal pickup game, by definition, should not be complicated. Yet doing so is often much more difficult than any social interaction should be among purportedly functional adults. At every new spot, one must figure out the pecking order and learn to take in stride the deafening screams of the token player-coach who, for some reason, really wants his team to switch to zone. The dynamic is not much different from being the new kid in school, but with more testosterone-laden shouting matches and wily, older gentlemen who set screens with their astonishingly bony elbows sticking straight out.

If this happens to you, fear not. (Finding a new game, I mean. You should be afraid of geriatric elbows.) Here are some simple DOs and DON’Ts to help you navigate court politics without having everyone hate you and openly refer to you as “Fuckin’ New Guy” until you sigh resignedly and decide to give squash a try after all.

DO interact like a normal human being. Day one. You stride into the gym, purposefully meeting every wayward glance with a hard-eyed stare. Time to show what I’m about, you mutter under Gatorade-laced breath, cranking up the volume on your earbuds and sticking out your jaw because it looks intimidating when Kobe does it. It’s about to go down, you vow as you start shadow-boxing in the far corner of the gym and occasionally rapping along to the most violent lines from “Hit ‘Em Up.”

Yes, even well past the age at which it is acceptable to treat Ball As Life, some bros still feel that their on-court interactions are one continuous referendum on whether they possess the killer instinct. Do not be one of those people. Pretend you are at Thanksgiving dinner with your significant other’s family, but with less nervous sweating. Smile. Use full sentences, and consider (gasp) introducing yourself. As in any other social situation, first impressions are everything. Don’t let Kobe Face ruin yours.

DON’T talk shit. If you insist on doing so in an unfamiliar setting, I personally guarantee that one of three things will happen:

  1. The target of your barbs turns out to be really, really good, and vows to make you look really, really bad, now and forevermore, amen.
  2. You unwittingly pick someone that all the regulars like. They telepathically unite against you, and ten minutes later the meatiest one lays you out with a moving screen that would make Kevin Garnett wince.
  3. Your nemesis turns out to be your direct supervisor at the new office, and you start desperately filling out a Peace Corps application that same day.

Friendly reminder that you are an adult. You have a family (possibly), a job (hopefully), and student loans to pay (definitely, until you are dead). You are not playing for a title, a contract, or anything else that could possibly justify deciding to tell a stranger, to his face, that he is a weak, soft [insert deeply offensive noun of your choice]. Don’t do it.

DO ask for a rules primer. Find out how the game is scored, which lines are out-of-bounds, how jump balls work, and the like. Someone on your team will probably fill you in, in part to make you feel welcome but mostly to ensure that you don’t turn the ball over because you forgot which lines to mind. But if no one speaks up, ask. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to err on the side of caution, jogging up and down the middle of the court between the three-point arcs like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace. Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace was fun, but not good. Don’t be Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.

DON’T call a bunch of fouls. Look, if someone Draymonds you, say something, assuming you’re physically able to make sounds other than a low, inhuman moan. But otherwise, smile, resolve to finish next time, and keep running. People will note and appreciate that you do not feel a compulsive need to stop the game with every bump, real or imagined. Plus, once they like playing with you, they won’t get nearly as upset when you’re tired and jog up and down the court like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.

DO guard who you’re told to guard. Did your teammates match you up with some dude wearing New Balances and cargo shorts? Are they flagrantly disrespecting your ability check anyone, anytime? Before you start angrily mouthing 2Pac lyrics again, remember that no one here knows you from Anthony Bennett, so no one expects anything of you, either. This is not disrespect. It’s insurance against you being, well, Anthony Bennett.

Taking this personally and insisting on guarding whoever you think you should guard is a very bad plan. At best, you’ll do fine, but because your teammates tried to help and you angrily waved them off, you’re a dick. Worst case, they know something you don’t, New Balances Guy torches you all afternoon, and you’re still a dick. So take it easy. If you indeed go all Kawhi on this chump, you’ll be shuffled to a better matchup soon enough, and before long it will be you telling the new people what to do.

DON’T lose perspective. Here is a true story. After months of trying, I finally scored an invite to a certain pickup game—shoutout YMCA National Capital, rest in peace—which its members quietly organized by email and zealously guarded to keep numbers low and headcases out. They scored by twos and threes (the correct way) to thirty, so with the day’s last game tied at 27, both teams naturally forgot that two-point shots existed. Finally, a guy on the other team launched the game-winner, but while squaring up he put his foot on the line. As the shot floated in mid-air, I called it—“Two!”—like an idiot. The ball sailed through the hoop, both teams began exchanging high-fives and, horrified, I tried to melt silently into the hardwood.

This plan did not work. “SOMEONE SAID ‘TWO.’ NEW GUY?” Dammit. The result of this game did not matter one bit, to me or to anyone else. But once pointed out, I couldn’t disavow the call, or I was a liar, which is the only thing worse than a toe-watcher. So I meekly copped to it and hoped that the universe would correct my mistake. Alas, my teammate promptly hit the actual game-winner. (His feet were well behind the arc.) We won, but EVERYONE was mad at me: the other team, because I took away their game, and my team, because they had to play with Dumbass New Guy Who Messed Up The Run. You won’t believe this, but I was not added to the listserv that morning.

Vince Lombardi (among others) famously observed that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. But Lombardi probably said this because if he didn’t win, he would get fired. No matter what happens, you still have to go to your office and file TPS reports when the game is over. So give the benefit of the doubt to hustle plays, ignore the occasional foot shuffle, and don’t wipe out a cool, fun sequence because you were so carefully scrutinizing toe placement. Everyone will have a better time if you let stuff go.

DO go beyond basketball. Assuming no one acts like a sociopath, on-court chemistry leads to off-court friendships, too. At each game of which I’ve been a part, the regulars do things like get together for drinks, look after each other’s kids, help with job searches, and go in on a thoughtful gift each time another player gets married. At this VERY post-Hoop Dreams stage of your basketball career, this is what actually matters.

So yes, the politics can be hilarious and inane. But navigating them is just a silly hoop (sorry) through which you have to jump, and becoming part of a genuinely meaningful community on the other side is well worth it. Good luck out there, don’t sleep on New Balances Guy, and save me a spot for next.

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I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick

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The man with the best bracket and most points racked up among the 3 million brackets submitted to Yahoo sports made a terrible, terrible mistake.  He forgot to pick a champion.

$50,000 in prize money on the line, and he did not pick a champion.

James Kiki’s nailed some early upsets, he had seven of the Elite Eight teams correct.  He has a perfect Final Four.  He is tied with two other people for first overall, just three games away from a $50,000 grand prize.  James Kiki will not win. Here is his bracket.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Kiki told Syracuse.com.

Ready to get even more upset?

Kiki, a South Sudanese refugee who works for a nonprofit in Syracuse, says he’d never filled out a bracket in his life, and only did so because he saw he could win $50,000.

But he was challeneged by Yahoo’s somewhat unintuitive picking system.  Kiki says he forgot about his bracket—“I’ve been watching the games, but I didn’t even know what teams I picked”—but only realized how well he had done, and how he had screwed up, when he was flooded by messages from other Yahoo users telling him how stupid he was.

I think I’m gonna be sick.

NCAA Tourney Update

At about 330pm pacific time, every college basketball bracketeer on earth collectively yelled out profanities after watching the Yale 1%ers upset the Baylor Yellow Highlighter Markers 79-75.  

NCAA Yale Baylor Basketball

Makai Mason had a career-high 31 points, including six of Yale’s final nine points, and the No. 12 seed Bulldogs held on to upset 12th-seed Baylor.  Yale (23-6) earns its FIRST EVER NCAA Tournament victory. It comes in its first appearance since 1962.

Then, the greatest, “Popovichian” postgame answer to an ass-clown reporter’s question about rebounding:


Fast-forward to just 10 minutes ago and we have another BIG-TIME #12 over a #5 upset!  Two overtimes, a double-digit deficit overcome late in the second half, a buzzer beating three-pointer to send it into the first overtime and there you have it.  The University of Arkansas-Little Rock has taken down the Purdue Boilermakers 85-83 with Derek Fisher (UALR Alum) in attendance.

Insert your Pur-DON’T joke here.

RESULTS THUS FAR:

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St. Patty’s Day Irish Whiskey Rankings

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Two things we love on this perfect mish-mash of a highly alcoholic-cultural day with the greatest basketball day in sports history: Irish Whiskey and March Madness.

Here’s 11 great reasons to throw-up today and call in sick tomorrow:

  1. Paddy; $20, 80 proof

Paddy’s from Cork, if that sort of thing means anything to you, and it’s triple-distilled, as are most Irish whiskies. It’s very smooth and easy to drink, though a bit light on flavor, with hay and Triscuits atop a bit of nutmeg and not much else. Paddy is fine whiskey, particularly for the price, and it’s probably the strongest last-place finisher in any Drunkspin ranking. Sorry, Paddy, but we can’t all win. Or finish second-to-last.

  1. Kilbeggan, $26, 80 proof

Kilbeggan is slightly better than Paddy due to a deeper flavor profile, with some sweet corn and cinnamon notes that make it one of the more bourbon-like of the Irish whiskies in this lineup.

  1. Teeling Small Batch; $37, 92 proof

This was partially aged in used rum barrels, and it shows. I like rum, but the molasses and vanilla flavors were overpowering, without much real whiskey character underneath. It tastes objectively pleasant, though: rummy and slightly floral.

  1. 8. Jameson; $28, 80 proof

Jameson is the most popular Irish whiskey in America by a preposterous margin. It outsells second-place Bushmills by more than 10 to 1. That’s crazy, sure. But just because its market dominance isn’t justified by a strict qualitative accounting doesn’t mean Jameson sucks: This isn’t a Irish Jose Cuervo situation. Jameson smells like vanilla, candied orange peel, lemon, and pepper; it’s simple and clean but assertive enough to be worth the effort, and you should absolute accept it every time it’s offered.

  1. Bushmills; $25, 80 proof

Bushmills is from Northern Ireland. I like it because it tastes like apples, toast, cinnamon, and wet pine bark, with a light tropical hint underneath.

  1. Glendalough 7-Year Single Malt; $40, 92 proof

This is the entry-level bottling from one of the newest Irish distilleries, founded in 2011. It tastes somewhat harsh, boozier than 92 proof ought to, but I was won over by the relatively complex flavor profile featuring sweet orange, lemon, cinnamon, pear, pistachio, and wood.

  1. Powers; $32, 80 proof

Powers has a unique chocolate, cherry, and caramel flavor, along with cinnamon and a touch of clove.

  1. Tullamore D.E.W.; $28, 80 proof

So the D.E.W. represents an old distiller’s initials, which is nice, but feel free (by which I mean, feel obligated by decency) to pronounce it “Dew.” It opens with a strong, sweet vanilla and butterscotch aroma, with cherry and faint pine needle notes emerging with time. And this is weird, but hear me out: I swear I pick up a little mustard seed? Good stuff.

  1. Jameson Gold Reserve; $70, 80 proof

Of course it’s good, it costs $14 a gulp! But, price gripes aside, the caramel apple, cinnamon, vanilla bean, oak, indeterminate spice, and light toffee work very well together, and I’ll happily drink this any time someone else is buying.

  1. Tullamore Dew Trilogy 15-Year; $75, 80 proof

Another super-deluxe model, this one is a blend of whiskies aged in sherry, bourbon, and rum barrels. It tastes like butterscotch, orange blossoms, maybe even mango, definitely cashews, and smoked honey. It’s bonkers and delightful, and I would likely feel that way even if they hadn’t sent me a small sample bottle.

  1. Redbreast 12-Year; $55, 80 proof

Sweet and spicy, with vanilla, black pepper, plum, anise, and molasses. I will very rarely advocate that Drunkspin readers spend this many of their own dollars on a single bottle of liquor, especially one that’s only 80 proof, but here’s a plan: Get yourself a bottle of Redbreast and have two ounces on the 17th of every month for a year. You’ve done so many worse things with $55.

March Madness – How To Get Out Of Working All Day

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Here is the official March Madness bracket, in case you don’t have time to do any googling on your own.

‘s Tournament time once again, and with three No. 1 seeds and some big names getting play started on Thursday afternoon, chances are you’ll want to watch the games while you’re away from your house or your nearest television. Fear not, as it’s easier than ever to watch every game without being near a television.

All NCAA Tournament games can be streamed online with NCAA March Madness Live. There’s also an NCAA March Madness Live app for iOSAndroidWindows 10Amazon, and Roku, so you can watch every game, even if you’re not at home or near a TV. March Madness Live has also added Chromecast support this year, so there are more ways than ever to get the game onto the TV.

It should be noted that March Madness Live requires authentication through your TV provider login. You can also check out the games through online television providers like SlingTV and Playstation Vue. Those services also require a signup, but you don’t need to go through a standard provider.

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Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts; Boise State Got SCREWED

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Even as a local Coloradoan, I can say confidently that we got away with one here.

Last night in an entertaining mid-major college hoops feet of strength, the Boise State Broncos seemed to have pulled off the miracle buzzer-beating win over the hosting Colorado State Rams.  The Broncos’ James Webb III hit’s a bank-shot three pointer with just 0.8 seconds left to play to seemingly give the Idahoians a huge Mountain West conference win on the road from the planet Hoth (Colorado).

BUT (huge ass on this one), when the zebras went to the monitor to review the last second hot-potato, they determined that the clock did not start at the exact moment when Webb III received the ball, and therefore ruled that he did not get the shot off in under .8 seconds.  Now if you’re a man of science, or just common sense, you may ask how the refs got to this conclusion, how did they determine the lag time in the clock starting?  They used the same tool that your girlfriend/wife throws in your face every Friday night to determine if you provided them with the “satisfaction” of a good night sleep……a stop-watch.

Here is the shot in slow motion, notice the clock above the basket:

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt weighed in last night with his two-cents.

And now for the twitter-verse to take control and ruin every referee’s life for the next week:

A real-life reliable way to determine how long it took Webb III to get that shot off is to break down the video of the shot frame by frame, which is completely possible to do in real time during the game.  Webb III held the ball for 17 frames before releasing it, which is equal to 0.57 seconds.  BOOM, done and done.

Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan Announces Retirement Effective Immediately

Mar 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan celebrates by cutting the net after overtime in the finals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament against the Arizona Wildcats at Honda Center. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats 64-63. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Ryan announced his retirement as the Wisconsin Badgers head basketball coach on Tuesday night.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Jim Polzin, Coach Bo Ryan and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez agreed this semester would be the best time for Ryan to announce his retirement to give interim head coach Greg Gard an opportunity “to take a run at the job.”

Over the summer, Ryan announced the 2015-16 season would be his last, but the midseason announcement came as a HUGE surprise to the basketball world.

“I’m sure I’ll have more to say later, but it’s extremely difficult,” Ryan said Tuesday night, according to the program’s official Twitter account. “I’ll see you down the road.”

Ryan leaves the Badgers as the winningest coach in school history with 7 Big Ten Titles and 2 Final Four appearances.  He’s already being called the 2nd best coach in all of the state of Wisconsin’s sports history (Vince Lombardi).

It’s very fitting that the great Bo Ryan; a man who didn’t necessarily buy into the glitter and glamour of the current state of college basketball, a man that represents an old-school toughness and team-play brand of basketball, a man that didn’t buy into the “one-and-done” mentality of college hoops; retires in the middle of a season on a Tuesday night after a non-televised game against Texas Corpus Christi without any warning or specified press conference.

In a Norman Dale-ish way, Coach Ryan walked into the post-game press conference and said to the Wisconsin fans, ” I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.” 

Mic drop………..”I love you guys”.

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Reason # 958 Why We Love NCAA Basketball

The college basketball season is in it’s infancy, BUT already we’ve seen highlights so ground-breaking they’d make The Rock strap on a helmet, man the helm of a helicopter and save lives…..”San Andreas”….nobody, hello? 

You think Nic Cage saw that trailer as he looked up from painting a self-portrait of himself gazing dramatically in a mirror while painting a self-portrait of himself gazing EVEN MORE dramatically in a mirror……and screamed out, “Why am I not in that movie!?!?”.  I’m sure he called his agent immediately and is now signed on for “San Andres 2: The Aftermath”

Sorry, I must have been daydreaming about Nic Cage again……back on subject now.

The NCAA hoops season is under way, for the casual hoops fan out there I’m sure you haven’t noticed yet due to the constant onslaught of NFL coverage and advertisements on EVERY damn channel ALL the damn time.  If I see another Fanduel or Draft Kings advertisement, I may lose it completely and set fire to my wallet before I can “take advantage of their 200% reload-deposit promotion that’s about to run out”.

Thank god for college hoops…..here’s many reasons to start paying attention.  Oh, need I remind you that March Madness is only 3 months-ish away.

The Monmouth Bench Squad

Texas Longhorns’ Kerwin Roach

LSU’s Ben Simmons

Kansas’ Cheick Diallo

More of a reason to hate BYU

An Indiana Hoosiers Guard Named Yogi

Kentucky is still good

Syracuse is in trouble

The Big10 – ACC Challenge is GREAT